PITTSBURGH - Brought over from the New York Yankees in the offseason, in part, to help transform a culture developed through 19 consecutive losing seasons, A.J. Burnett is doing plenty of winning for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Burnett pitched six shutout innings to win his seventh consecutive start and the Pirates won for the fifth time in six games, 4-1 over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night.
Burnett (8-2) allowed two hits and three walks and struck out four to extend his streak of starts that resulted in victories to the longest for a Pirates pitcher in 38 years. Doc Ellis won eight consecutive outings in 1974.
"He relied a lot on his experience, a lot on his catcher and a lot on making pitches," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said of Burnett. "He got ahead in counts, they'd run it back to three balls then he'd find a way to get outs. He kept them from scoring, kept them from crossing the plate and you can't ask for more than that."
Burnett followed James McDonald's complete-game victory Thursday, matching his career high by winning a seventh consecutive decision.
"It's nice because it means the team is winning," Burnett said, "but I wasn't thinking about it. I just went out there and tried to take the baton from J-Mac and carry it on."
Today: Detroit Tigers at Pittsburgh Pirates, 4:05 p.m.
Pitching matchup: Tigers RHP Max Scherzer (6-4) vs. Pirates RHP Brad Lincoln (3-2)
Andrew McCutchen went 3-for-4 to improve his batting average to .346 and Rod Barajas added two hits for the Pirates (37-32), who matched a season high by going five games over .500.
Ramon Santiago had an RBI double for the Tigers, who had won four of five. Detroit missed a chance to move back to .500 for the first time since being 18-18 on May 15.
The crowd of 37,965 was Pittsburgh's fifth sellout of the season. The city is beginning to warm to a team that has won 15 of its past 19 home games and began the day within two games of the first-place Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central.
Detroit managed a mere three baserunners against Burnett over the first five innings but the first two batters of the sixth reached when Austin Jackson singled and Quintin Berry walked.
Slugger Miguel Cabrera worked Burnett into a full count but grounded into a double play on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
Burnett improved to 5-0 at home this season, allowing six earned runs in 48 2-3 innings at PNC Park (1.11 ERA).
He had losing records pitching for playoff teams in New York the past two seasons but is on pace to threaten the career-high 18 victories he had for Toronto in 2008, when Barajas was his catcher.
"It's good to be able to work with him again," Barajas said. "We had a great relationship in Toronto and he's back to pitching the way he did there."
Pittsburgh has won 10 of its past 12 games against AL teams, allowing an average of less than three runs over that time.
Tony Watson struck out Jackson to end the seventh, Jason Grilli worked a perfect eighth and Joel Hanrahan had two strikeouts in retiring the side in the ninth for his 18th save in 20 opportunities.
The first three Pirates had hits against Tigers starter Doug Fister. Neil Walker followed Alex Presley's leadoff double with an RBI single, and Walker scored when Garrett Jones grounded into a double play.
The Pirates added two unearned runs in the second when Detroit mangled fielding Burnett's sacrifice bunt attempt.
Pedro Alvarez and Barajas led off the inning with consecutive singles. With one out, Burnett - who broke an orbital bone during a bunting competition in spring training - laid down an attempted sacrifice.
Fister fielded the ball and tried for the lead runner at third. His throw sailed into left field, where Delmon Young couldn't handle it cleanly. Two errors were charged on the play in which two Pittsburgh runs were scored.
"We probably turned what would have been a third-to-first double play into two runs, which was obviously a no-no for us," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "And we couldn't overcome it. We didn't swing the bats very well, and of course Burnett was good."
Detroit scored in the seventh when Jhonny Peralta and Santiago hit consecutive doubles off reliever Jared Hughes.
The run allowed the Tigers to extend their club record streak of not being shut out to 138 games.
Coming off his first win of the season, Fister (1-4) was charged with two earned runs, eight hits and a walk in six innings. He had seven strikeouts.
"He was struggling a little early," Leyland said. "He left a couple pitches with two strikes up in some hittable spots. He wasn't real sharp early, but he settled in and pitched well."
Notes: According to STATS LLC, Giants RHP Matt Cain is the only other pitcher in the majors this season to win at least seven straight starts. Cain has a current streak of eight wins in as many outings. ... Burnett won seven consecutive decisions July 19-Aug. 19, 2005, as a member of the Florida Marlins. ... Leyland said RHP Jose Valverde (wrist) was feeling "much better" Friday but that the closer still was not 100 percent. Valverde, who has not pitched since June 15, was to play catch Saturday. ... RHP Max Scherzer starts for the Tigers on Saturday against RHP Brad Lincoln. Scherzer had 15 strikeouts in a 4-3 win against Pittsburgh May 20.